The box lacrosse season is well underway in Cranbrook, as teams have been practicing for weeks in anticipation of this weekend’s home-opening festival at Kinsmen Arena.
According to Kath Backshell-Jones, president of the Cranbrook Lacrosse Association, registration numbers are up across the board with approximately 110 players enrolled throughout the tyke to junior/senior age groups as the program continues to excel.
“It’s a really good crossover sport [for hockey],” Backshell-Jones said Tuesday. “There’s lots of similar skills and running, so fitness wise, people who have played lacrosse and went back into hockey have found their fitness levels way higher than other kids. Obviously, it’s a great, fun sport and it’s quite a physical sport. It’s teaching a lot of the kids how to behave in and out of the arena, too.
“It’s fantastic growth. Especially at the younger ages, we’re getting a lot of kids coming up and through.”
The box lacrosse season officially fires up this Sunday at 8:30 a.m. at the Kinsmen Arena as the local association welcomes teams from the West Kootenay and Elk Valley to Cranbrook for a full day of action that isn’t scheduled to end until 6:30 p.m.
Backshell-Jones said the Cranbrook-based lacrosse program is the largest in the region with recent growth sparked by a variety of factors, including something as simple as the transition into a tournament-based season that sees the entire club, every team within every age group, travelling together from weekend to weekend.
After hosting their own home festival this weekend, the Cranbrook Lacrosse Association will pack its bags and haul over to the West Kootenay for the Castlegar Kootenay Festival May 1.
Other big travel dates on the spring slate include tournaments in Lethbridge (May 13 to 15), Strathmore, Alta. (June 3 to 5) and Medicine Hat (June 10 to 12). The club is also scheduled to host a hybrid box/field lacrosse festival May 21 before ending the season with its year-end festival June 15.
“Families with two or three kids playing are all travelling together,” Backshell-Jones said. “There’s an amazing club spirit that we have right now, just within individual teams, but with the club as a whole.
“[The kids] are so excited, especially the younger ones that maybe haven’t played in very many games before. This is huge for them. They can’t wait to start competing. They’re very competitive kids, they love the game and we teach sportsmanship, so win or lose, they are still learning something every step of the way. This is the build up for our tournament season and the kids are absolutely buzzing. They can’t wait to get their jerseys with their numbers.”
Backshell-Jones credited much of the in-game progress to head coach Russ Sheppard, who has overseen the direction and education of all coaches within the program. Sheppard was unavailable for comment prior to print deadline Tuesday afternoon.
While Sheppard’s contributions have been immeasurable over his years with the organization, the association is also thankful for the support of the community.
This past Saturday, the club held a bottle drive, which raised more than $3,000 to be put towards new goaltenders equipment as well as floor time at the Kinsmen Arena, which Backshell-Jones said is the largest annual expense for the organization.
Those interested in supporting the Cranbrook Lacrosse Association are encouraged to visit the club’s website at www.cranbrooklacrosse.com, the Kinsmen Arena during practices (all practice schedules available online) or this weekend’s festival.
“We’re always looking for coaches and we’re always looking for referees,” Backshell-Jones said. “We run those courses whenever we can, so if anybody wants to get involved in that way, they can visit our website, which is jam-packed with information.”
The Cranbrook Lacrosse Association is dedicated to providing a youth sports experience for boys and girls that builds character and camaraderie, which will last a lifetime.